The Color of Harding

Is it not the right of students of color to have faculty who look like them? Is it the presumed destiny of these students to feel that they are not worthy of the same rights as white students, who are more likely to have mentors, associates, and individuals with a common cultural background and disposition? I never had a black professor in my class until I entered the class as a teacher. I am proud that Harding continues to address the issue of race, culture, and society by bringing in speakers to discuss their past and present plight; but what is a school saying about race when it makes little effort to recruit and hire minority teachers? I am ashamed of Harding for not taking care of this problem. Of course this is not just a Harding University problem.

Here are a few suggestions:

1.      Encourage white professors to work closely with and mentor minority students. Five months ago I was asked to speak at Harding to the black alumni association. I recall a current black student telling the group that when he meets with Harding faculty, they appear to be interested in him and often claim to like his work; however, he went on to say that many cannot relate to him; white teachers jokingly will make racial statements but pass them off as a joke.

2.      Bring in a visiting professor of color.

3.      Wine and dine promising black candidates.

Here is what one black professor who attended the Professors of Color Conference four years ago had to say:

1. “We can’t find black professors, they don’t exist”. That’s a flat out lie. They do exist. They go to good schools, do great work, and then apply for jobs, only to be told that they aren’t qualified for the position. Most of them do not get a chance to be interviewed, even by academic departments that have not hired or tenured a person of color in over 120 years. I have many friends RIGHT NOW who are highly qualified to teach at the top universities, but they aren’t getting a second look when they send in their applications.
2.  “The ones who apply for hiring or tenure are just not qualified. Therefore, we can’t quite justify keeping them here.” – There is not a more insulting statement in the world, nor one that is more indicative of the mentality that embraces white supremacy. The idea that there is a job that hundreds of people have done, mostly white men, in which THERE IS NOT A PERSON OF COLOR ON EARTH QUALIFIED TO DO THAT JOB implies that you’ve not come to terms of the shear insanity of such a conclusion. Given America’s history of racism and exclusion, it is far more likely that this history of exclusion plays a powerful role in the fact that many people are being systematically shut out of these opportunities. The environment was built by racists to promote and support the success of one ethnic group over another (take a look at an old picture of your own campus from, say, 1950….see any black folks in that picture?).


26 thoughts on “The Color of Harding

  1. I’ve had black professors, white professors, Asian professors, Middle Eastern professors, and South American professors, and truthfully, the only things I cared about was their ability to speak English and their expertise in their field. I’ve had black male professors who spoke with such heavy Ebonics that going to class was painful, and I’ve had white professors with such horrid redneck speech (and this is coming from a Southern farm girl, mind you) that going to class was equally painful. If I were an administrator and I was forced to choose between two qualified candidates, I would make them teach a class and then talk to the students and make sure they could be understood. Nothing is more frustrating that paying a thousand dollars for a course only to be forced to teach yourself because you simply cannot understand the spoken English. That being said, they should hire qualified black people. It’s not appropriate to not hire them.

  2. White conservative schools fear differences. I am sure they promote diversity and talk about why race and skin color is not important, but the truth of the matter is that they are conservative for a reason. I was looking at an old article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and saw that Harding has only two minorities on the faculty. Oh, and they are not black.

  3. Plenty of minority professors at Virginia Tech. But then again its a technical school. I have more professors who speak english as a second or third language here than people who speak it as a first.

    I don’t think I have had a black professor yet, but they do exist, I seem them on campus, they just aren’t in the sciences as much. There is 1 in the math department that I see a lot of though. We have no physics majors that are black, and I haven’t met a black chem major either, nor biology, but I don’t hang out with many in those fields. Most of them seem to be in areas that are more geared towards business or some other major outside of science.

    I have a friend who goes to Harding, and I don’t mean to offend, but he complains about how it isn’t at all what he expected. He is only going there because he got a full ride, but he isn’t too amazed by the other students, but the professors he generally likes. I doubt many high end professors are signing up to work at Harding, even more so for minorities. Its a small private christian school, and I am guessing that there aren’t many that are signing up, but I am sure there is a bit of racism, that will hopefully die out with time and people. My grandparents are a bit racist still, which is frustrating, but its a dying thing among the generations.

    I see it more of black people being really rude to white people more so than vice versa ><. Though thats probably because I don’t have any black friends personally.

  4. I doubt. I graduated in the top ten percent of my high school class and had a fantastic SAT score and I only got $3500 a year, which is a small drop in the bucket compared to Harding’s tuition. I’m not saying that he didn’t have those things, but there’s got to be something else unless Harding has changed drastically in the two years since I’ve been gone.

  5. I should probably also mention that I graduated from high school seven years ago. That frightens me a bit, especially when you consider that I’ve never had a real job.

  6. Wade,

    The professors there are very good. Many are not prolific scholars. Few have published much if at all. The school’s ideology presents a number of problems for people of color. They let religion play a greater role than it should. It drives their politics too much. The campus is anti affirmative action, anti social welfare, pro life, and for the most part, some there believe you must be church of Christ in order to go to heaven; that is pretty silly. Religion has worked at times against the intellectual culture of the community.

    The students are pretty sharp. I believe they get the most merit scholars in the state of Arkansas. They cut me a very nice deal. Racism is a big issue more in the community than on the campus seeing that most students are from various places across the country and world for that matter.

    According to the numbers, non Asian minorities tend to avoid fields such as math and science; I suspect that has to do with the poor academic preparation of many black students. Black females who tend to do far better than black males, face the same problems white and Asian females face – institutional gender discrimination.

    You seem to know a lot about this.

    Oh, academic incest is a big problem.

  7. I don’t know much about Harding, so i am just relaying what I heard from my friend, and he was hoping for a wholesome christian atmosphere, but found the students to be quite the opposite. Not that they weren’t christian, just that they didn’t really uphold the belief in the way my friend hoped. That discouraged him along with the mandatory 8am Bible class everyday.

    He is a church of christ member, but isn’t nearly as extreme as the people you mentioned.

    I have noticed that there are always some really great professors at every school, but when it comes to minority kids, I rarely see the “mediocre average” minority student. They are either really smart, or are probably at the school for reasons other than academics. But I have an awfully poor perspective, so I am probably wrong (read: definitely).

    It really surprises me that a christian school would be racist. It seems to go against what the primary stereotype of christianity is supposed to be. I am an atheist and have seen plenty of crazy christians, but I was always hoping that was more of them being highschool students and on facebook rather than in person. I don’t meet those types in person often.

    What is academic incest though?

  8. Academic incest is the process of hiring people that you educated. The problem lies in the fact that various departments have various forms of teaching, and so if you learned whatever you learned at the University of Florida, and then Florida hires you, you’ve only perpetuated the teaching styles and emphases that the faculty at that university already has.

  9. Hi, Edward.

    I came to your blog via Frumteacher’s blog. I have enjoyed my visit thus far.

    I have worked in independent schools for my entire teaching career, which has been for 14 years thus far, and I am sick and tired of the implications thar POC are not qualified to teach in independent schools, are lesser qualified than their White counterparts, or that such schools are unable to locate candidates. I heard a speaker at a lecture I attended almost two years ago say to a White admin. who said she and her colleagues have been unsuccessful in finding POC to teach at their school” Headhunters can find virtually anyone to teach anything. If they are looking for a

  10. Hi, Edward.

    I came to your blog via Frumteacher’s blog. I have enjoyed my visit thus far.

    I have worked in independent schools for my entire teaching career, which has been for 14 years thus far, and I am sick and tired of the implications that POC are not qualified to teach in independent schools, are lesser qualified than their White counterparts, or that such schools are unable to locate candidates. I have taught side by side White colleagues who are lesser qualified than I in each of the independent schools I have taught. I heard a speaker at a lecture I attended almost two years ago say to a White admin. who said she and her colleagues have been unsuccessful in finding POC to teach at their school” Headhunters can find virtually anyone to teach anything. If they are looking for someone who skis, knits, sky-dives and speaks swahili, then independent schools can find POC to teach in their classrooms.

    And, there is a lot of academic incest at independent schools -too much I am afraid, as well as nepotism.

  11. All I have to say is, since kindergarten through my sophomore year in high school in the public school system and till now my senior year in a private school, you have been my only black teacher.

  12. missprofe

    It is great having you visit my blog; I look forward to reading your stuff here and at your blog. Your point is very true. Have you ever attended NAIS People of Color Conference? There are some independent schools that fear change….They hold on to tradition because a few important people want it that way. On the other hand, I know of schools such as Tampa Prep that has gone out of its way to attract top minority candidates. There headmaster is black.

    I gave TP a lot of thought a few years ago. They treated me like a king from the moment I got off of the plane; I was sick for about a year because I had to withdraw from the offer.

  13. Josh,

    Your point is the reason why I hope a student such as you will consider doing what I do; students look at you as a role model on campus; I really hate that I did not have you this year.

  14. Hi, Edward.

    Thank you for the props. Nice to see another POC blogging on education. Yes, I have attended the PoCC every year for the past three years. Did not connect with anyone from Tampa Prep. Glad to know that a POC has stepped up to the challenge and assumed the reigns of leadership. So, how many heads of color does this make? Do you have any stats.?

    BTW: I used to do college admissions recruitment, and I visited Tampa Prep. I liked what they were doing there.

  15. Being a Harding University student for the last 3 1/2 years, I have had the opportunity to make a few general observations based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve discussed with Harding faculty members as to why there’s a lack of diversity amongst professors.

    1. Harding, as Carson alluded to briefly, doesn’t attempt to recruit minority professors. For example, I know that the last History professor who was hired was THE ONLY candidate considered for the job. In the next few years there will be 2 or 3 positions opening up in the History and Social Science Department; I would be willing to bet that the candidates considered for the job will be few (if even more than 2 or 3) — and white.
    2. The cyclic effect (or the Revolving Door) for professorship at Harding. Most professors are graduates of Harding University who make their way back after obtaining advanced degrees. Since most students are non-minorities, the majority of graduates are non-minorities, and the majority of sought-after professors will be minorities. This creates a very limited constituency to recruit from, resulting in a severe lack of diversity amongst professors.

    3. The administrations is white, except for 1 person. For more, see points 1 and 2.

    3. This is a Church of Christ school that only recruits professors who are members of the Church of Christ. Even though the school is growing and becoming more socially and religiously diversified, the only teachers considered for the job are members of the Church of Christ. Members of the Church of Christ are typically non-minorities. Most qualified professors of the Church of Christ are white, simply put. There are many reasons for this social phenomenon. For starters, most Church of Christ members considered themselves members of the Religious Right. The Religious Right does not represent minority interest, and feels disdainfully towards anyone who calls her/himself a Democrat or Liberal (this beliefs is commensurate to the unwritten 11th Commandment that “thou shalt not vote Democrat). Since members of the Church of Christ, who, coincidentally, consider themselves Democrats are few and far in between, and since most minorities are “liberal” or align more closely with the Democratic ideology, you are certain to have a much smaller recruiting pool of Church of Christ Minorities willing to come to Harding to teach.

    Observation #3 is the most fixable issue at Harding. Simply open up to a more diverse theological doctrines — become more “religiously tolerant.” Harding is border-line idiosyncratic and not far from dogmatic in many of its social and religious doctrines. The ideal that women should “submit” to their husbands is not well taken in today’s society, nor should it be. If Harding wants to continue to grow, and to continue to attract good students, it needs to become more religiously tolerant. Now, when I say that I mean that people who consider themselves Methodist or Baptists should be allowed to teach at Harding. I’m not suggesting that Harding should hire Muslims (although personally I’m not in any way opposed), because it’s simply a political non-starter.

    Sadly, observation #3 is likely to remain the standard for some time.

    #4: There’s no affirmative action “movement” for teacher diversity. Most students don’t care, much less even observe the lack of teacher diversity. Many students even do such asinine things like hanging confederate flags from their windows, or have confederate flag details on their car windows. What type of university accepts this type of social behavior and prejudicial callousness? A university that is uncaring to racial representation.

    There’s no movement from the top-down, nor is there a movement form the bottom-up.


    What will solve this? A massive push from the minority liberal base at Harding, from both the students and the professors for a more ethnically diverse faculty and an abandonment of idiosyncratic conservative beliefs about the Church of Christ being the “orthodox” doctrine of Christianity. Although results could be seen from solely the former or the latter, I personally would like to see both.

    Former lawyer Fred Grey visited campus last week as part of ASI distinguished speaker event. Dr. Grey was simply appalled at the lack of diversity amongst Harding University. I would go as far to say that he was even ashamed. Dr. Grey said, in respect to Harding’s ethnic diversity, “you all have a problem here.” Indeed we do.

  16. I think that many of the postings here are good and address many of the cultural issues at Harding, but I think that you can’t even begin to address the diversity issue and the hiring of qualified candidates until you address the Nepotism and favoritism issue.

    Dr. David Burks has been the president of the University since 1987, when his son Bryan Burks was an undergraduate sophmore. His son Bryan Graduated in 1989.

    Bryan was made DEAN of the Business school in 2002. He graduated from Harding Business school 13 years earlier, worked a few jobs from 1989-1995 while getting an MBA from MTSU. Then he came back to Harding to teach and was promptly made an assocaite professor, Professor and then an Associate Dean (My, what an accelerated track you have!) before becoming the DEAN of the School in 2002 in his 30s.

    Other professors already in the Business School Faculty had PhD, D.B.A, J.D. and other Doctorate degrees, yet they answered to the Son of the President of the University and new Dean of the Business School, Mr. Bryan Burks. (Bryan worked on getting his D.B.A. from Nova University and finished in 2006)

    Bryan has taken up his father’s cause of “Christian Business Ethics” but it is clearly an issue that he feels only “strongly” enough about to make exceptions for nepotism.

    You see the same policies of protecting the F.O.B. “Friends of Burks” in other Dean positions as well. The Dean of the School of Divinity is not a PhD, but remains in his position as Dean because he is a friend of the University president and is assigned two PhD “Associate Deans” to ensure he does not get in over his head. There is no chance of addressing the issue of faculty diversity at Harding until the current culture that permits the President unlimited authority is addressed. There is a clear difference between discrimination (denying fair opportunity because of who you are) and bias (giving unearned opportnity because of who you are)–and the Harding Univeristy President is so biased toward Family members and those that he worships and is friends with that the opportunity for discrimination is not even yet ripe!

    To add insult to injury, Dr. David Burks is most proud of his commitment to teaching “Christian Business Ethics” and the establishment of a Senior Ethics Seminar. The primary stated goal of this seminar is to provide a strong focus on the ethical climate of today’s business world. I suppose nepotism isn’t discussed as a potential business problem…

  17. Yes, nepotism is an issue. I think this problem exists in that they like to hire husband and wife teams; this is not just an HU thing, though. I am not sure why this exist. I suspect religion and the basic conservative nature of the school allow this to happen. Academic incest allow schools to maintian a particular culture of comfort within the ideological frame of it campus…which is very sad for an institution of higher education. I guess it is all about the goals of the school.

    You have a number of great points.

  18. Carson,

    Thanks for allowing me to comment here. I appreciate your blog very much.

    However, I do want to add something else, and not to put too fine a point on it…

    You are indeed correct, spousal preference and spousal hires exist elsewhere in academia. Spousal preference also exists elsewhere in federal civil service jobs and geographical postings with the military. But there is a HUGE difference in spousal hires and spousal preference that are designed to keep husbands and wives together through job transitions and what goes on at Harding. The blatant nepotism that provides special access (and apparently a waiver of requirements) by putting the 30-something year old son of the University President in the position as DEAN of the Harding College of Business with minimal business experience and a recently finished master’s degree!

    The hubris of hiring the president of the university’s son into a professor job, and then making him an associate dean was bad enough…but to then make him the DEAN OF THE BUSINESS SCHOOL? Harding somehow continues to attract National Merit Scholars and retain a reputation as a good private school in spite of the conduct of the administration, not because of it.

    The student body and some great key faculty are on par with a school like Wake Forest University, while the Administration continues to carry on like they are in charge of ‘Possum Creek Bible College.

    Dean positions (especially of Business Schools) are tenured, permanent jobs that should be carefully selected and only given to those with extensive experience in the business world and the classroom. “Dean” Bryan Burks proudly states on the HU website that the faculty of the business school averages 15 years of business experience and 15 years of instruction experience.

    …I wonder who in the business school is ensuring that their experience helps average out the wet-behind-the-ears Dean? A professor with 30 years in the Business world? A professor with 30 years in the classroom?

    My point was not intended to hijack your thread focused on expanding the diversity of Harding through more diverse hires, but rather to provide some amplifying information on why an eminently qualified candidate of color (who would otherwise be content to work at Harding) would be extremely reluctant to want to even try to work for the Deans, Administration and President of Harding who do not stand by the “Christian Business Ethics” that they claim to be the guiding principles of the school.

    Bottom line:

    If you can’t imagine that a lily-white applicant would proceed with confidence at Harding with the belief that he would get a fair opportunity, why would a candidate of color (or an eminently qualified woman) bother to try?

  19. Bison Brother,

    Feel free to contribute as much as you like to this topic; I posted this more to point out things that the school needs to address. There does not seem to be any serious discussion taking place about topics such as faculty diversity, academic incest, and as you noted nepotism.

    I found this comment by you to be very interesting: “while the Administration continues to carry on like they are in charge of ‘Possum Creek Bible College.” I think I know what you are sayin but would love an additional comment on it. And your point on minority hiring is very true. You addressed the bottom line well.

  20. Bison Brother has hit the nail on the head. The minority hires are so far down the list at HU it’s ridiculous. Each time a 5-year plan comes out, it’s stated that this is one of the University’s concerns, though it’s never addressed in action.
    The nepotism and/or favortism is so over the top that it’s laughable.

    And, no one with any power seems to mind.

  21. Pingback: My Name is Elrod Too « The Proletarian

  22. Hello! My name is Morgan and I am an African American high school senior in the church of Christ who is considering attending Harding. I have been very interested in the school, however, after reading your blog, I am a little concerned about what I may encounter… I am not used to racism form where I am from. Do you think that I will have problems with that if I attend there? I also noticed how you talked about them not promoting diversity of thought. Do you feel that they brainwash their students and do not promote individuality? Did you not enjoy your time there? Lastly, did you feel that after staying at Harding for a while, you were crippled from being able to assimilate with the diversity of thoughts and people that you encountered in the real world? Thank you so much for your help! I am praying that God will lead me in the right direction. God bless!

    • Hello Morgan. Thanks for the note. I highly recommend Harding. You will feel welcomed by both teachers and students. Both are pleasant. I do not think the school brainwashes; however, it does have a VERY distinct and conservative point of view. Hence, it lacks both ideological and racial diversity. Though its student body is pretty conservative, they are generally very nice. I would like to see the school make attempts at greater diversity. I had a good time there; I am still friends with many of those very people today. Better yet, a group of 12 of us get together once a year for a weekend in either Searcy or another city. Harding must think in terms of how people your age are different. The notion of Harding behaving at times like a church I think will impact her. I do not think you will have any problems at HU. If you would like to chat with me by cell, fire me an email. In truth, I would love to chat and add more to this discussion. Further, I would like to hear how things go for you while at HU. I hope to hear from you.

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